The Port of Oranjestad is the island of Aruba’s capital and its most important port. Lying about 25 miles north of the coast of Venezuela, Aruba is a favorite vacation spot for travelers and a popular scuba diving destination.
With a population of almost 33 thousand people, the Port of Oranjestad is a tax-free port and shipping center. Located on the island’s northwest coast, the enclosed harbor has two basins and modern cargo-handling facilities.
The Port of Oranjestad grew up after 1796 around Fort Zoutman. It was named after Dutch King Willem van Oranje-Nassau. Parts of the city were created by extensions built into the sea by man. Today, many houses in the Port of Oranjestad are painted bright orange in honor of William of Orange.
The indigenous people of the island were Arawak Indians, evidenced by red cave drawings, stone tools, and pottery. After Spain claimed it in 1499, Aruba was a pirate and smuggling center. The Dutch took the island in 1636, and the Dutch West India Company made it a base. The British took the Netherlands Antilles, including Aruba, briefly during the wars with Napoleon, returning it to The Netherlands in 1816.
Until an oil refinery was built on the island in the 1920s, the standard of living was poor. But after oil was discovered, the economy got stronger, and the population grew with immigration from other areas of the Caribbean, Venezuela, the United States, and Europe.
Historically, Aruba was under the jurisdiction of The Netherland’s nearby island of Curacao. In 1986, Aruba became autonomous, breaking away from Curacao, but remaining part of the Netherlands Antilles.